On November 8, 2005,
15-year old student Kenneth Bartley Jr. had been
confronted by principal Gary Seale on whether he carried
a firearm on school campus. He allegedly pulled the .22-caliber
handgun under a napkin and stated, "Yes, it's real. I'll
show you. I never liked you anyways," and proceeded to
open fire on assistant principal Ken Bruce and Gary
Seale and assistant principal Jim Pierce, who were
present in the room. Ken Bruce had died of sustained
On April 10, 2007, Kenneth Bartley Jr.
plead guilty to a single count of second-degree murder
and two counts of attempted second-degree murder, and
was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
refuses to overturn Kenneth Bartley plea deal
By Robin Murdoch - WBIR.com
A Campbell County teen
currently serving time for a deadly school shooting won't get a new
trial, at least for now.
Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood on
Monday rejected 15-year old Kenneth Bartley's request to withdraw his
April guilty plea.
It happened in the middle of
jury selection for his trial.
Assistant Principal Ken Bruce
died in that November 2005 shooting.
Principal Gary Seale and
Assistant Principal Jim Pierce were seriously injured.
When the Judge Blackwood
announced his decision, the courtroom filled with applause.
It was a bittersweet victory
for the victims and disappointment for the defense.
Bartley testified, "First
degree murder, first degree felony murder, two first degree attempted
On Monday, Bartley rattled
off the charges he originally faced in a Campbell County courtroom.
According to his new defense
attorney, Bruce Poston, the teen didn't completely understand them
before taking the offer.
Poston says, "On March 25th
you turned down a deal that was 25 years for second degree murder and 10
years and 10 years for attempted second degree murder."
Bartley replied, "Yes sir."
"On April 10th you said I'll
take the deal. Why?," asked Poston.
Bartley answered, "I was
scared cause I was looking at two life sentences."
Poston says his client also
didn't get to talk about the offer with his parents until the damage was
already done. He insists there was no parental input until it was too
Rita Vannoy, Bartley's mother
agreed. She's one of the reasons there's a motion to withdraw the plea.
Vannoy adds, "I didn't
understand what was going on. I knew it wasn't what we agreed to. We
agreed to have a trial."
Mike Hatmaker, Bartley's
former attorney who helped broker the plea deal testified the 15-year
old knew what he was getting into.
"He wanted to do this.
Absolutely," says Hatmaker.
District Attorney General
Paul Phillips asked during Monday's proceeding, "Any question in your
"No," replied Hatmaker.
In the end, the Judge
Blackwood sided with the state ruling Bartley wasn't pressured to take
Judge Blackwood also pointed
out he rarely accepts pleas on the same day of trial. Monday's hearing
Poston adds, " I'm
disappointed in the decision. I'm not surprised. Half way through what
the judge was saying I leaned over to Kenneth and said we lost but we
have a good record. You could see it coming."
"We came here at peace and
we're leaving here at peace. You know there are no winners here. My
heart breaks for their family," adds Jo Bruce, Widow.
Bartley is serving a 45 year
It is 6
years fewer than if convicted of first degree murder.
Bartley Trying to Withdraw Guilty Plea
May 10, 2007
(WVLT) - The teenager who pleaded guilty in
the Campbell County School Shooting is apparently trying to withdraw his
The LaFollette Press is reporting Kenneth
Bartley, Junior, is seeking to withdraw his guilty plea for the shooting
at Campbell County High School in November 2005.
Assistant principal Ken Bruce died in that
Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal
Jim Pierce were hurt.
According to this morning's LaFollette Press,
Bartley's attorney Michael Hatmaker filed a motion to withdraw the
guilty plea and enter a plea of not guilty and also asks for a trial
date to be set.
The plea deal came as a shock to some people
on the first day of jury selection for Bartley's trial last month.
Under the deal, Bartley pleaded guilty to
second-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder.
He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Bartley victims: 'We forgive him' / Bartley
Satterfield - KnoxNews.com
April 10, 2007
JACKSBORO, Tenn. — A troubled teen who once
turned a high school into a shooting gallery today turned a judge's
chambers into a confessional.
"He wished he hadn't done it, and he wished
he could take it all back," Assistant Principal Jim Pierce said in
recounting Kenneth Bartley's apology given in the judge's chambers
shortly before his plea deal was announced in the courtroom.
In the agreement, Bartley, 15, pleaded
guilty to second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Campbell County
Comprehensive High School Assistant Principal Ken Bruce, 48, on Nov. 8,
He received 25 years in prison.
The lanky bespectacled teen also pleaded
guilty to two counts of attempted second-degree murder in the shootings
of Pierce and Principal Gary Seale. He received two 10-year sentences
for those shootings.
Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood approved
the sentences and ended the trial after struggling a half-day with jury
Mike Hatmaker, Bartley's attorney, said
after the plea, "It was the hardest case I've ever been involved in."
He said that Bartley wanted to apologize in
private to Jo Bruce, widow of Ken Bruce, Seale and Pierce.
"He said that he didn't mean to do what he
did," Hatmaker said.
Jo Bruce said she did not want to discuss
what went on in the closed-door meeting with Bartley.
"I did tell him that I know Ken forgave him,"
Pierce said that he accepted Bartley's
"We told him we forgive him ? our lives will
never be the same."
The announcement followed a flurry of
meetings this afternoon among Bartley, Hatmaker, prosecutor Paul
Phillips, the victims and victims' families.
Hatmaker and Bartley then met privately.
Hatmaker approached Phillips after that
conference and said that Bartley wanted to meet with the victims.
"He wants to apologize," Hatmaker told
After that meeting, Blackwood announced the
plea agreement to the courtroom.
Bartley must serve 85 percent of the 25-year
sentence and 20 percent of each of the 10-year sentences. That's about
He was facing a minimum 51-year sentence if
he had been convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying of Bruce at
the rural high school about 35 miles north of Koxville.
Earlier today, Blackwood dismissed 34
potential jurors from a panel of 53 because they said they had opinions
about the case that weren't likely to change.
One after another, the jurors told the judge
they had made up their minds about Bartley's actions.
The court had summoned 135 potential jurors,
more than double the normal jury pool.
A Campbell County grand jury had returned
the indictment against Bartley in February. TBI Agent Steve Vinsant was
the lead investigator in the prosecution.
Phillips, whose district includes Campbell
County, had sought the indictment after a judge ruled Bartley should be
tried as an adult.
The grand jury charged Bartley with first-degree
murder in Bruce's death and two counts of attempted first-degree murder
for the nonfatal shootings of Seale and Pierce.
The teenager also was charged in the
indictment with bringing a gun onto school grounds and possession of
Xanax, a prescription sedative, with the intent to distribute the pills.
Special Juvenile Court Judge Michael Davis
in February rejected the notion of a troubled young man in need of
treatment and instead deemed Bartley a threat to the public.
"We see Mr. Bartley has a significant
delinquent record," Davis said in ruling. "There's an attack on his
mother and father, an attack on a neighbor, an attack on a youth who had
not paid for drugs he bought from Mr. Bartley and, more recently, an
assault at Mountain View (Youth Development Center)."
Davis said the risk to the public is greater
than the odds that another stint in the juvenile court system will turn
the teenager a productive citizen. With that in mind, Davis ordered
Bartley to stand trial as an adult.
Davis' ruling came after more than two days
of testimony, some of which was shielded from public view.
According to testimony, Bartley brought a
gun to school that day to trade for OxyContin, a powerful painkiller.
Campbell County Sheriff's Department Deputy Darrell Mongar has testified
that Bartley had taken two pills of Xanax, a prescription sedative,
before the shooting and had 10 more in his pocket.
Pierce got a tip that Bartley was armed and
summoned the then 14-year-old freshman to his office, where Seale and
Bruce joined him.
Pierce testified that Bartley brandished an
unloaded gun when Pierce ordered him to turn over the contents of his
pocket but grew agitated when Seale also reached for the weapon.
When Seale asked Bartley if the gun was
real, Pierce said Bartley responded: "I'll show you. I never liked you
Bartley then withdrew an ammunition clip
from his other pocket, loaded it into the gun and opened fire, Pierce
and Seale have testified.
Davis' decision to send the boy to the adult
court system did not turn on Bartley's actions that day, however.
Instead, the real debate was over Bartley's mental state and the
likelihood that he could be rehabilitated within the juvenile court
Phillips argued that the juvenile system had
tried and failed, primarily because of Bartley's own resistance.
In January, officials at the Mountain View
Youth Development Center found a homemade knife, known as a "shank," in
Bartley's room, Phillips said.
Bartley boasted "that he bucked the system"
and had made threats against staff, the prosecutor alleged. Phillips
said the teenager also has proved manipulative.
"He said, 'Oh, I just did that to be thrown
out of that unit,' " Phillips said.
Bartley had a chance at treatment at
Kingswood Academy, where he had been sent before the fatal shooting.
"He told the folks at Kingswood ... he would
do whatever necessary including violence to leave this institution,"
Phillips said. "He's the one that escaped from Kingswood."
Hatmaker countered that Phillips could only
produce one witness — Dr. Vance Sherwood — to support the theory that
Bartley was a dangerous offender unlikely to change.
Hatmaker questioned the validity of that
assessment, noting that Sherwood characterized Bartley "as a psychopath,
a diagnosis not even recognized by the DSM," referring to the "Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" published by the American
"If you want to take (Sherwood's) word, then
you transfer him," Hatmaker said. "If you don't want to transfer him,
you have the testimony of seven people, five of whom were called by the
state, (who all say) he's treatable as a juvenile. That's the question.
Is he treatable as a juvenile? Yes, he is, overwhelmingly. Treat him as
Davis' ruling in February put the fatal
school shooting case right back where it was just a few months ago.
Bartley had agreed to have his case handled in adult court but backed
out when community members became upset over the possibility of a plea
be tried as adult
By Jamie Satterfield -
February 2, 2007
JACKSBORO, Tenn. — A special
Juvenile Court judge ruled today that accused school shooter Kenneth
Bartley should be tried as an adult.
Morgan County Juvenile Court
Judge Michael Davis, specially assigned to the case, said that
authorities had tried and failed to rehabilitate the troubled teenager.
"Mr. Bartley himself has
avoided treatment efforts," Davis said.
Davis ruled that Bartley, now
15, is a danger to the community and should face the adult system on
charges that include first-degree murder.
District Attorney General
Paul Phillips said he will present the case to a Campbell County grand
jury on Monday for consideration of charges.
Davis set bail for Bartley at
$850,000, a figure defense attorney Mike Hatmaker indicated he likely
could not post.
Earlier this week, Davis
heard testimony from at least three mental-health professionals on
Bartley’s state of mind.
Davis on Tuesday suspended
the hearing until today in order to hear from a fourth who will be busy
until in a hearing in the case of convicted Knox County killer Christa
The public has been barred
from the courtroom during the mental-health testimony because of privacy
But Hatmaker acknowledged
Tuesday that, under juvenile law, a decision on whether Bartley should
be tried as an adult turns not on what the teenager did but what’s going
on in his head.
"It really boils down to two
factors," Hatmaker said.
One, is there probable cause
to believe that it was Bartley who opened fire in a Campbell County
Comprehensive High School office Nov. 8, 2005, killing Assistant
Principal Ken Bruce and wounding Assistant Principal Jim Pierce and
Principal Gary Seale?
On that factor, there is no
dispute between Hatmaker and Campbell County District Attorney General
"He (Bartley) did it,"
Two, is the now 15-year-old
Bartley suffering from a mental illness that makes him a danger to the
public and for which only treatment in a mental-health facility will
On that factor, there is no
agreement between the two.
"Is he amenable to treatment?"
Hatmaker asked in rhetorical fashion. "That’s the issue."
The defense attorney has sent
at least two mental-health experts to the witness stand in Campbell
County Juvenile Court this week to back up his assertion that Bartley
should remain in the juvenile court system. Friday’s witness, Knoxville
psychologist Diana McCoy, also is expected to testify on behalf of
The state has at least one
expert on its side — Dr. Vance R. Sherwood. The East Tennessee
psychologist has authored books on adolescent mental woes delving into
such topics as "conduct disorder" and how to best treat "out of control"
The stakes are high. If
Bartley is ordered to stand trial as an adult, he faces a minimum 51-year
prison term if convicted of the first-degree murder of Bruce. If
convicted in Juvenile Court and not committed to a mental-health
institution, he could be held only until age 19. Even if he were
committed, the teenager would be freed when clinicians deem him no
longer a threat.
Bruce’s widow, Jo Bruce, and
his sons, Chris Bruce, 26, and Patrick Bruce, 22, have been in court the
past two days awaiting a decision on Bartley’s fate.
She isn’t ready to define
justice for the Bruce family. But she believes the system will deliver
would have liked not to have seen another delay, but we understand the
need for it," Jo Bruce said Tuesday. "We understand the process. I’m
here to wait and see. We made it through that Nov. 8, 2005. We can
certainly make it through this. We have faith in the process."
face seven counts
Suspect in school shooting,
14, charged with killing educator
Jamie Satterfield -
June 8, 2006
A grand jury on Wednesday
returned a seven-count indictment against a 14-year-old boy ordered to
stand trial as an adult in the slaying of a Campbell County
Comprehensive High School administrator.
A Campbell County grand jury
leveled charges, including first-degree murder, against Kenneth S.
Bartley, who is accused of opening fire in the office of the school
where he was a student in November when confronted over an accusation he
was armed with a gun.
Bartley is charged with
killing Campbell County High Assistant Principal Ken Bruce and wounding
Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce.
The indictment charges
Bartley with the premeditated killing of Bruce as well as an alternative
count of felony murder in which the teenager is accused of killing Bruce
during the attempted murders of Seale and Pierce.
The boy could be convicted of
both but punished for only one.
Essentially, the two murder
charges present alternative versions of the theory behind the killing.
One provides a backstop for the other since both carry the same
For instance, if jurors were
not convinced that Bartley intended to kill Bruce, prosecutors could
argue that the teenager still rated a murder conviction because Bruce
wound up a victim of Bartley's attack on Seale and Pierce.
District Attorney General
Paul Phillips said Wednesday that he would not seek a sentence of life
without parole in the case if Bartley is convicted of either murder
"In our opinion, the
punishment that is appropriate in this case would be life," Phillips
Under state law, a convicted
killer sentenced to life with the possibility of parole must serve 51
years before he or she is eligible for release.
Because Bartley is not an
adult, state law bars the imposition of the death penalty.
He was ordered to stand trial
as an adult earlier this year after his defense attorney, Mike Hatmaker,
agreed to waive a hearing on the issue. That decision, which allowed
Hatmaker to avoid a public airing of the evidence against the boy, sent
the case to a Campbell County grand jury.
The grand jury on Wednesday
heard from six witnesses, including Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
Agent Steve Vinsant, Pierce, Seale and Bruce's wife, Jo Bruce.
In addition to the two murder
charges, the panel indicted Bartley on two counts of attempted murder
with Pierce and Seale as the victims, carrying a weapon onto school
property and possession of Valium with the intent to sell the
prescription sedative or distribute it.
The Valium was allegedly
found in Bartley's possession after the shooting.
Bartley, who is being held in
the Richard Bean Juvenile Service Center in Knoxville pending trial, is
expected to be arraigned Friday. Phillips and Hatmaker will meet again
in a Campbell County courtroom on July 14 for the setting of a trial
Authorities have said the fatal school shooting that rocked this tight-knit
community occurred after school officials summoned Bartley to the office
to check out a tip that he was armed.
Sheriff: student shoots 3; 1 dead
Don Jacobs and Lola - Alapo - KnoxNews.com
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
JACKSBORO, Tenn. - A 15-year-old Campbell County high
school freshman allegedly killed one administrator and seriously wounded
two others Tuesday when confronted by educators checking a report the
boy was armed, authorities said.
Kenny Bartley Jr., a freshman at the
school, allegedly shot Assistant Principal Ken Bruce in
the chest area, said Campbell County Sheriff Ron
McClellan. Bruce, a retired military man, was
transported to St. Mary's Hospital in LaFollette where
he was pronounced dead.
Campbell County Comprehensive High
School Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim
Pierce were flown by medical helicopter to the
University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Seale, suffering a bullet wound to
the groin area, was listed in serious condition. Pierce
was shot in the arm, but the round then entered his lung.
He was listed in critical condition.
Bartley was being held Tuesday night
in the Richard L. Bean Juvenile Service Center in
Knoxville, juvenile officials said. McClellan said he
expects formal criminal charges to be filed today
against the teen.
"We'll make a determination on
charges later, after we've gathered all the statements
and the evidence," said Campbell County Chief Deputy
Scott said the 2:11 p.m. shooting
occurred after school administrators were tipped that
Bartley had a handgun. The boy was removed from his
class and taken to the office area away from other
"When they confronted him, I guess he
just panicked," Scott said.
Scott described Bartley's gun as a
.22-caliber semiautomatic pistol, about the size of a
Saturday night special that could fit in the palm of an
McClellan said Bartley was disarmed
in the office area before he could endanger other
"The gun was wrested away from this
individual by another teacher," the sheriff said.
Sometime during the struggle,
McClellan said, a bullet grazed Bartley's right hand,
causing a bleeding wound. The teen was treated at the
same hospital in LaFollette where Bruce died.
"He didn't show any remorse to me,"
the sheriff said. "He was pretty calm."
McClellan said he sat with Bruce as
the man in his late 40s died at the hospital. McClellan
said he spoke with Seale before the principal was
removed from the school.
"I talked to Mr. Seale in the
office," he said. "He was in quite a bit of pain."
Seale, in his early 50s, is in his
second year as principal of the high school. Prior to
that, Seale was principal of the LaFollette Middle
School. Seale's son is a student at the high school.
Pierce is also in his early 50s and
served as athletic director for the high school.
The three victims were married and
had children. Their families asked the media to leave
them alone Tuesday night.
The sheriff said he expected
investigators to search Bartley's residence outside
LaFollette sometime Tuesday night. Bartley's father,
Kenny Bartley, owns Kenny's Pioneer, a convenience store
in LaFollette, the sheriff said.
The suspect's father and an attorney
met briefly with the boy Tuesday evening, according to
Scott said K-9 dogs from law
enforcement agencies across the area were called in to
search the high school after the 1,400 students got out.
"After we've cleared the building,
we'll have K-9s go through and clear the school of any
weapons or narcotics," Scott said.
McClellan said Tuesday night he still
didn't "know what all happened during the shooting"
because his investigators were still piecing together
Agents from the Tennessee Bureau of
Investigation are assisting in the investigation and
have set up a mobile crime lab at the high school to
help process evidence, authorities said.
The school does not have metal
detectors but does have a security officer employed by
the board of education, McClellan said.
School officials said the building is
equipped with surveillance cameras. Authorities,
however, have not reviewed the recordings to determine
if the cameras captured anything to aid the probe or
shed light on how the shooting occurred.
The sheriff said he couldn't address
information that Bartley had taken the gun to school in
hopes of trading it for two OxyContin pills.
"I've heard all kinds of things, but
I can't confirm that right now without talking to my
investigators," McClellan said.
One of the lead investigators on the
case, the sheriff said, is his daughter, Amy Hamac.
Pierce had been Hamac's teacher at Campbell County
Comprehensive High School, and her daughter is a student
at the school.
"I just told her to stay focused and
to keep the emotional stuff out of it," McClellan said.
Those close relationships are
indicative of how deeply the community will feel the
pain from the shooting, residents said.
"It affects the whole community
because the parents know the teachers and now the
teachers know our kids," said Ida Monday, who graduated
in 1979 from the high school.
School officials opted to cancel
classes for the rest of the week at Campbell County
Comprehensive High School, said Director of Schools Dr.
Board of Education Chairwoman Mary
Michelle Gillum said that by closing the high school for
three days, administrators will have more time to gather
a team of grief counselors to greet students next week.
McClellan praised the way school
officials handled the situation after the shooting
"I applaud the school's actions
today," the sheriff said.
When the shooting ended, a school
administrator ordered the school locked down, which
prohibited students from leaving their classes.
"That was the proper and professional
thing to do, lock the school down," McClellan said.
Students said Seale, probably after
being shot, came on the school intercom and ordered the